Being engaged is a really happy time in your life, but planning a wedding can make that time a lot more stressful. Trying to put together a huge party that makes your wedding dreams come true and won’t leave you in debt is overwhelming and can sometimes even feel impossible. You’ll also get a lot of advice thrown at you, but there are some things people forget to bring up.
As someone who recently got married and spent a year and a half planning a (successful!) wedding, I can tell you that there are a few things you absolutely need to keep in mind throughout the entire process, even if you haven’t heard about them already. These will keep you calm and relaxed, which is the attitude you want during this busy time.
Don’t book vendors or make big decisions too early on.
In most parts of the country, you need to book vendors (especially the big ones, like your venue) a year or more in advance in order to get what you want. Keep that in mind, but also don’t book too early.
For example, if you plan on being engaged for three years, wait a little before you start booking things. When you sign a contract with three years to go, you still have years to change your mind and see things you might like better. Just give yourself some time and don’t let anyone pressure you into making a decision before you’re totally ready.
Keep your wedding dress to yourself.
Something I did that I highly recommend is keeping my wedding a dress a secret from everyone aside from my immediate family and my bridesmaids.
When planning a wedding, you are going to hear opinions and rude comments and it can be frustrating and upsetting – it can also make you reconsider something you love. It’s hard to keep most details a secret, but one thing you can keep quiet is the details of your dress. It’s nice to have one thing that no one can offer their opinion on, especially if it’s very important to you.
Get involved in some sort of local wedding community.
One of the best things you can do while planning is to talk to others who have had weddings in your area. They can give their experience with certain vendors and give you tips you may not have thought about before. It’s also nice to have people to talk to who are also planning a wedding and understand what you’re going through.
I joined a Facebook group for brides in my area, and it was incredibly helpful throughout the entire process, plus, I had people to vent to. Try to find something similar.
Once you’ve booked your vendors, stop looking at wedding inspiration as much as possible.
There’s no need to keep looking up photographers once you sign a contract with someone. And once you’ve bought a wedding dress, don’t keep looking at new styles. It’s natural to do this when planning because it’s so easy for it to happen, but it’s only going to make you second guess your decisions and feel panicked that you made the wrong choice.
Before booking a venue, ask if you can stop by before they have an event going on.
Booking the venue is the most important part of the process for many, and it can be tough to pick one. Before you sign a contract, ask if you can stop by while they’re setting up for a wedding. Most places book appointments during that time anyway. It’s a great way to see how they’re setting up the place for an event because that can look totally different than a room with nothing going on.
Look up the time of the sunset on your wedding night.
If you are having your ceremony or reception at night, it’s a good idea to check out the sunset time for your wedding date. This is mainly for pictures – you’ll want to know the best light for outdoor photos. But it’s also good to know if you plan on having the ceremony, cocktail hour, or the reception outside.
Number your RSVP cards to keep track of guests.
When sending out invitations, you’ll send out an RSVP card for guests to fill out and send back. They’re supposed to write their name on the card, but a lot of guests actually forget to do that … so all you get back is a blank card that says they’re coming or they can’t make it. That’s obviously really confusing. Put a little number on the back of each card, then assign that number to a guest, so that if that happens, you know exactly who the card belongs to. You’ll thank yourself later.
Don’t bother spending money on an unplugged ceremony sign.
Unplugged ceremonies are popular right now. That’s because most people pull their phones out during the ceremony to take pictures of you and everyone else walking down the aisle. This means that your professional photos have cell phones throughout the entire background, sometimes even blocking you or someone else from view. It’s also a little rude.
A lot of people now buy pretty unplugged ceremony signs to ask guests to not touch their phones – I bought one, and it was pricey. Unfortunately, no one ever listens to these signs. When I walked down the aisle, all I saw was phones. Save your money.
Go over your registry three times to make sure you really want all that stuff.
Registering for gifts for your bridal shower and/or wedding is exciting – it’s like making a giant wish list where you know you’ll probably get everything. It’s easy to get over-excited and to start registering for a ton of stuff you don’t really need or want, especially because everyone tells you to add a lot of options.
Remember: you will probably get everything you ask for, so make sure if you really want what you’re adding. I registered for a few things that, when I received, I wondered, “Why did I ask for this and not something else?”
Make a list of the portrait photos you want your photographer to take, but don’t go overboard.
Your photographer isn’t a mind-reader. You might think they know which portrait photos (like photos with your family) are important, but they don’t know what’s important to you unless you tell them. Write out a list of exactly what you want and give them a copy before the day of the wedding so they know what to take. Then designate someone to make sure those photos get checked off, because you won’t have time to think about.
Just don’t go overboard – candid photos are great too, and if you start making a list of the poses you and your significant other are going to do, things are going to be a little stiff and unnatural.
Set up all the tips and money beforehand and designate someone as the money person.
Paying for vendors typically goes something like this: you give them a down payment when you book them, then you don’t pay in full until the day of the wedding, and you’re also expected to tip. You will not have time to think about this or do this on your wedding day.
The week of the wedding, get your money together, along with envelopes. Separate everything into labelled envelopes, and then designate someone responsible as the money person who hands them out throughout the night.
The week of the big day, set aside some quiet time for yourself.
The month leading up to your wedding will be so much more hectic than you think it will, especially if you’re leaving for a honeymoon immediately after. You don’t want to go into the day feeling super stressed. Try to set aside a little time for yourself the week of the wedding so you can relax and remember this is a happy time, not just an overwhelming time. For example, I booked a facial appointment a few days before my wedding and it was very soothing.
Stop worrying about the small details.
If you’re in the midst of planning, this is very hard to hear and listen to. But trust me: the day of the wedding, you will not notice the little details or even the bigger ones. I don’t remember looking at my flower table centerpieces, I don’t remember half the songs that played, I don’t remember what was served during cocktail hour, and I no longer cared about half the things I had been stressing about.
The night of, you’ll be having so much fun that that stuff really and truly won’t matter… and honestly, the only things people will remember is if they had a good time if the food was good and if the overall vibe was nice. They won’t remember much else.
Designate someone to help you clean up your stuff after the reception.
If you don’t have a wedding coordinator, speak to your venue to see if your bridal attendant will be getting your personal items together for you after the reception. If they won’t, make sure to have a bridesmaid or family member do it for you.
For example, I had left my bag, my makeup, my shoes, and a few other things laying around our bridal suite, and by the end of the night, I was so overwhelmed I had no idea where anything was. Get someone to do that stuff for you so you don’t lose things.
Skip the traditional stuff you aren’t into.
When planning, you’ll feel a lot of pressure to do all of the traditional things. But this is your wedding, and you can, and should, do what you want, not what others expect. Don’t have a great relationship with your dad? Skip the father/daughter dance. Too shy to do the garter and bouquet toss? Don’t do it. Not into the idea of a catering hall or venue? Plan a smaller wedding in someone’s backyard.
Go into it with the mindset that something will go wrong.
This sounds negative, but it should be helpful. Your wedding night will not be picture perfect. You have to know that something, or a few things, will go wrong. A few weeks before my wedding, my husband and groomsmen got in an argument and the groomsmen dropped out of the wedding party.
The day of, we realised the suit my husband rented was too short for him in an obvious way and there was nothing we could do about it. My dress had embellishments around the arms that left blisters on my skin. I was so worried about these things, but guess what? It was still the best day ever, and none of that mattered. Just remember that.